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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

When we see a warning sign


The warning was clear enough, even so they kept coming.  And coming, one after another - until they had no choice but to turn around at the end of our road. 


A few days back one of the utility companies had to do some work in Prescot Road, near to the entrance to our cul-de-sac.  This meant that the road had to be closed, causing huge inconvenience, especially for those heading towards the new motorway junction in Maghull. 


I must say that I was impressed with the way the road closure was managed.  The first sign was positioned at the traffic lights at Long Lane:  ROAD CLOSED, ACCESS ONLY.  However, if you were going to drive along Moss Delph Lane, you kept going, disregarding the sign.


The next sign, ROAD CLOSED, ACCESS ONLY, was at Doctor’s Bridge – basically only those living in our road or on Prescot Road itself could disregard the warning.


The final sign, ROAD CLOSED, was at the end of our road.  There would be no point whatsoever driving past this sign unless you were one of about eight residents of Prescot Road. 


Essentially this notice applied to everyone.  Whether you like it or not, the ROAD ahead is CLOSED, impassable, fermée, gesperrt, הכביש סגור.


But of course, you already know what happened.  Car after car came to try and find a way through, every driver thinking that the rule did not apply to them.  Each thought that they were a special case.


In fact, when I went to take a photo for this blog, there was one white Vauxhall SUV which drove right up to the cones, then stopped to ponder their options. 


Clearly the road ahead was blocked by the lorry, the barriers – and if they could see it, the huge hole across the road.  Impenetrable hedge on the left, narrow pavement on the right bordered by another substantial hedge.


Then the final realization, the road really is closed.  Sadly no alternative but to implement a U-turn. 


Of course, we’ve all been there, discovering a way through when the road ahead is closed; we relish the challenge.  Maybe we have arrived at that golden moment, between the workmen (and work-women) putting up the signs before they actually close the road.  Or maybe they have just finished.  


Or from years of experience, we know there’s always a way through. So we drive through onto the front drive at number 13, proceed over the front lawns at #15 and #17, before returning to the highway through the open gate at #19

I’ve just found this wonderful quote from author Matt Taibi which should be affixed to every ROAD IS CLOSED sign. “If the law doesn't apply equally to everybody, then you don't really have a system of law.”


The truth is that we are not very good at responding to warnings, not least the warnings of Jesus.  I have to admit I can’t recall ever preaching on the warnings of Jesus as such – but they are an important part of his ministry.


Some of his warnings are directed to his own generation, living at their particular time in history, essentially on how to respond to the Roman legions sacking Jerusalem, an era-defining event just a generation away.  For example: “Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” (Mark 3:14). 


But the one warning which Jesus gives for anyone who would follow him. (i.e. us) is the danger of being led astray by false teaching. “Beware that no one leads you astray.” (Matthew 24:4).


And Jesus gives this warning time and time again, like the signs along Prescot Road.  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)


This theme is taken up by all the New Testament writers.  In fact, the epistle I am currently working through, Paul’s letter to the Galatians, is one extended warning against wrong teaching, with its famous line:  “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 3:1). 


However, today we are bedevilled by the belief that how we think doesn’t matter, the false teaching that no teaching is false.  It’s simply a case of what works for me which may well be different to what works for you. 


The danger is that we find ourselves adrift in the ocean of situation ethics, where  right and wrong depend upon the situation. Here there are no universal moral rules or rights - each case is unique and deserves a unique solution.


However, our basic understanding as disciples of Jesus is that how we think is very important, even of eternal significance.  And the basics are very clear.  The resurrection victory of Jesus is an objective event in history and the need to decide to entrust our lives to him as LORD is non-negotiable. 


This means how we think is crucially important and again the basic is quite clear:  it’s not a case of us deciding how to live our lives but discovering how to live, for Jesus promises to guide us by the gift of his Holy Spirit.


As Paul urges the young churches:  “In your life together, think the way Christ Jesus thought.” (Philippians 2:5 ERV)   So you know what to do when you see the next warning sign. 


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